This blog explores changes in the energy industry from an insider’s perspective as it transitions from the old centralized utility model to the new paradigm of distributed generation.
This blog was previously called Inside the Housing Evolution and focused on energy efficient homes. Ultimately, it’s all linked. Soon, every building will have the potential to generate, store, and sell energy. Welcome to the era of the transactive grid – the greatest shift the electricity sector has seen in over 100 years!
3D Printing Houses – An innovative vision for the future of housing
Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California is developing a completely new way to build houses using a large-scale version of 3D printing technology. This innovative approach, called Contour Crafting, works by using a large robotic arm with a nozzle that can spray fast drying concrete in layers according to a predetermined design. According to Khoshnevis, once fully developed his system will be able to build a 2,000 square foot house, including plumbing and electrical, in 24 hours and for 1/5th the cost of conventional construction.
There are many potential benefits to this approach besides the obvious time and cost savings. This approach would have zero waste materials, fewer greenhouse gas emissions than regular construction due to the lower embodied energy of this approach, significant safety benefits for workers, and fewer labour issues (though that may not be considered a benefit to everyone).
Dr. Khoshnevis and his team envision the technology being used to produce affordable housing, shelters for disaster relief, and most intriguing, future dwellings on the moon and mars!
I’m a big fan of factory built housing. I feel that the construction industry is far behind other industries in using automation to improve the manufacturing process. Contour Crafting takes the factory built housing concept to the next level by fully automating all aspects of construction. Granted, if it became commonplace this approach would make much of our construction labour force obsolete, however I see it as part of the larger, gradual shift in the workforce from an industrial society to an information based society. To put it another way, automation has already transformed almost every other manufacturing industry, and for the most part society has been able to adapt and benefit from the changes. Besides, these changes happen very gradually and the technology would be used in niche applications only for many years as the industry adapts.
Contour Crafting is still in its infancy and I believe there are still many technical challenges that need to be overcome before it can be used in real-life applications. As an engineer, I have some practical questions regarding its use (like how they get the concrete to dry so quickly- a major issue in conventional construction), but I believe the technical problems can be overcome. Conceptually, this is a completely innovative approach to automating the construction process, and I think that research into these types of areas are long overdue.
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Peak Power is a Microgrid project development company focused on delivering innovative solutions to offset the most expensive hours of electric demand. We specialize in optimizing the revenue streams from energy storage, advanced building automation, and renewable technologies for customer sited and utility scale projects. Please visit www.peakpowerenergy.com.